The older Griswold and Wagner pans were significantly smoother than most of the new cast iron cookware sold today. After removal from the mold they were polished, which significantly helped their non-stick qualities. The new pans are, from what I've seen, are sold without this extra polishing step which leaves somewhat of a pebbled interior. This is with Lodge and some of the imported varieties. I have not personally seen any of the new Wagner so no comment there.
However, no matter how smooth the pan is on the inside, it still must be seasoned significantly before you can slide eggs around or get anything sticky to not really stick. This is not difficult, but is a necessity even in the older pans. That being said I wouldn't get rid of my Wagner or Griswold pans for the world and neither would my mother. I love my cast iron, I've got an entire shelf of it, but realistically it isn't the best for everything.
- If I were getting new cookware, I'd go for this combination.
- Vintage Cast Iron Skillet: 2-3 is a plenty, various sizes are nice. Worth the search IMO
- Cast Iron griddle: Don't spend a lot, Cost Plus World Market normally has them for $20 or so.
- Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven: Staub or Le Creuset (pricey but incredibly high
- Cheap stainless steel stockpot with colander insert: no need to
spend a lot on boiling water.
- Large carbon steel wok: Joyce Chen or any inexpensive carbon steel one
- Large disc bottom stainless steel sauté pan: Sitram Profisserie is a
good brand, you want disc
bottom to retain the heat on the
- Disc bottom stainless steel sauce pans: Sitram again is a good brand, though you don't really need to spend a lot of money on these as they will be primarily for heating liquids.
- Clad or copper saucier: if you make a lot of sauces that require reducing or whisking, nothing beats the heat distribution and responsiveness of copper, clad is also a more than adequate close second.
- Clad or Carbon Steel Frying Pan - De Buyer for the steel. Cuisinart,
All Clad, Calphalon, etc for
the clad. Look at the middle layer
(the aluminum), the thicker the
better here = even heat
This is based on what I find myself cooking, countless hours of researching, and the courses needed to understand all the thermodynamics and metallurgy talk of the particularly devoted cookware zealots. If everything must match, I suggest going for a set of tri-ply clad cookware, Costco normally has something decent in a box set. It's not nearly ideal from a performance perspective, i.e. highly conductive sides wicking away heat from your boiling stock pot or hot sauté pan but it will be plenty functional and a whole lot better than nonstick.
I realize that is a whole lot of information, but if you can't tell, I like cookware :)